Last Updated Nov 9, 2018
Air conditioning is one of the biggest energy consuming appliances in the home. When temperatures rise and your air conditioning starts to works overtime your energy bills can quickly get out of hand.
What's the solution? Do you turn off the air con and try to bear the heat? Some Australians are choosing another solution - solar air conditioning.
How does solar air conditioning work? Let’s find out more about the technology behind it and if it is a viable solution for your cooling needs.
There are are number of different types of solar air conditioning technology, but only a few are found on the local residential market. They are:
Solar photovoltaic air conditioners convert sunlight captured by a solar array into electricity. The air conditioning unit works the same as a typical split system, but is powered by energy provided by the sun. When solar energy is not sufficient, conventional electricity charges the systems battery array.
Solar thermal systems use a plate to capture the sun's heat which turns an electric generator. Unfortunately these have been found to be inefficient, and recently failed to meet Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS) set by the Department of Environment and Energy, with some models withdrawn from sale.
Solar air conditioning costs significantly more than conventional air conditioning. The extra cost is largely due to the cost of the solar panels and equipment needed to convert sunlight into electricity. In a hybrid system you also have to pay for the storage battery.
Learn more: How Much Do Solar Panels Cost?
If you're thinking about switching to solar air conditioning, some things to consider include:
Available sunlight: Solar panels depend on sunlight. If you live in a sunny area, your solar panels will be able to collect more solar energy.
Solar PV: solar panel technology has come a long way and better quality solar panels are more efficient and last longer than cheaper solar panels.
Usage: If you rarely use air conditioning, your energy savings may not justify the cost of a solar air conditioner. If you use air conditioning frequently and for long periods of time, you might be able to recoup the extra cost of your solar system within five years.
The bottom line is that until the technology improves you are likely to be better off buying an energy efficient air conditioner. Look for a unit with a high energy star rating to get the full benefits.
All contractors who install and/or repair air conditioners and refrigeration equipment need to be registered and licensed for this type of work. This is regulated by the Australian Refrigeration Council (ARC) - where technicians must either hold a full Refrigeration & Air Conditioning licence or a restricted licence that allows them to only install split system air conditioners.
Technicians must also hold a licence from their state, which are typically issued by bodies like Fair Trading in NSW or Energy Safe Victoria.
Questions to ask you installer include:
Are you ARC registered and licensed for my job?
Are you insured to work in my home?
Can you supply me with references?
Can you provide a written quote?
When can you start my job?
The best way of finding out the cost of your air con project is to get quotes from local air conditioning installers. This will give you a sense of what market rates currently are.
Before hiring an air conditioning installer, it’s wise to get quotes from several providers. After you’ve compared quotes, ensure you understand how much the installer is going to charge. And given the importance of correct installation, always choose a reputable air conditioner installer who is licensed, insured and can provide referrals.
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